JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Dozens of people are getting a second chance at life after completing the LifeBuilders addiction recovery program at the City Rescue Mission.
The McDuff Campus in the Lackawanna area offers support and housing for long-term recovery for substance abuse and other life-controlling issues.
Students spend about 18 months in the program, continuing their education and working toward a full-time job.
Dozens of adults who completed the program will attend a graduation Friday night, signifying their transition back into society -- sober and self-sustaining.
One of those graduates is Kathleen.
Starting at a very young age, Kathleen, whose last name has been withheld, was in and out of addiction. Alcoholism was just the beginning.
“That slowly but surely transformed, and I went from powder cocaine to crack. ... I just kept using,” she said. "The past 25 to 30 years has been hell.”
Kathleen said she grew up in rough environment.
“I grew up in a chaotic family with an alcoholic father, and the yelling and screaming and the fighting, and that's all I knew in my mind,” she said.
For years, Kathleen was in and out of rehab and living on the streets. She said her relationship with her several kids fell apart.
"They didn't want me around,” Kathleen said.
But all that changed after she entered City Rescue Mission's LifeBuilders program in 2013. It's a Christian-based, transformation program.
"They give you enough time to work on yourself and allow God to do the work in you, and you have to be willing to change,” Kathleen said.
She said the process wasn't easy. She had to first sign up and go through several interviews and classes.
"We have attitude classes, Bible classes, anger classes, sex classes,” she said.
LifeBuilders has a campus in Lackawanna with nearly 150 dorms for men and women in the program, which also provides educational services, vocational programs, rehab and counseling -- all privately funded.
Thousands have graduated the LifeBuilders program, and CRM Executive Director Penny Kievet said 80 percent of graduates stay in Northeast Florida, either continuing their education or working with the skills they learned through the program.
"We feel like we are called to open these doors as widely as we can and say, 'Come on in,' because we are here,” Kievet said. “And what we know is that with the right heart, these are folks that deserve a second chance at life.”
It's a second chance Kathleen said she will not take for granted.
"Today, I'm a 54-year-old grandmother who loves herself,” she said.
Her motivation can be seen all around her room in pictures of her children, grandchildren and friends.
"I know it's not going to be a piece of cake. That's life,” Kathleen said. “But I'm not afraid of it."
Kathleen plans to continue her education and get a full-time job.
CRM has been serving the Northeast Florida area for 70 years. To donate to the LifeBuilders program, go to http://www.crmjax.org/donations.